Discussing Skills and Experience in an Interview

Written by: Movin’ on Up Blog

Interviews usually start out the same way. You’ll shake hands with your interviewer, sit down, and wait for the first question. They might want a quick introduction, or could just go right into asking about your resume. If you don’t have a resume, they might want you to speak about your applicable experience and skills.

This is where many job seekers stumble. Some have plenty of skills and experience, but aren’t exactly clear on how to articulate it. Others don’t have much experience, and don’t know what to say.

Here’s our list of do’s and don’ts to get everything out there.

Do: Kick Things Off with an Elevator Pitch

Before digging into your skills and work experience, share a bit about who you are as a person. Giving the interviewer a feel for your unique personality, strengths, and what you’re looking for in a job is a great way to stand out from the competition.

All this information is called your elevator pitch, a quick speech outlining who you are, what you want, and what you can do for the company. This is where you can highlight what you want in a position (e.g. family-oriented culture, opportunities for advancement), as well as specific experiences you’re proud of (e.g. increasing ROI, achieving deadlines during a serious time crunch).

Do: Make a List of Your Skills

You have useful skills; the hard part is figuring out how to talk about them. For instance, maybe you were a cashier at a fast food restaurant or sold shoes at the mall. That means you have customer service experience! The same goes for being a recruiter for a school or college club.

Before your interview, write down a list of everything you did at your past jobs. Or, if you haven’t worked before, jot down club or volunteer experience. Then, translate those job responsibilities into skills and pair them with specific experiences. Instead of going on an unfocused ramble about your last job, note that you managed a team, completed projects well-before deadline, or exceeded expected quality levels.

That’s the kind of information interviewers want to hear. Making a list ensures you recognize your skills and can speak directly about them, instead of babbling about jobs in general without a central focus.

Do: Connect Your Skills to the Job You’re Applying For

Every job is different, which means you need to prepare differently for every interview. Take time to read the “required skills” section of the job listing and match those qualities to the ones on your list. Sprinkle a few of those keywords into your interview and expand on them with specific experiences and you’ll stand out as an applicant.

Don’t: Speak Poorly of a Previous Employer

This is something we mention frequently. It seems obvious, right? Nobody is going to want to hire you if you walk into an interview complaining about a previous boss.

But things are a bit more complicated than that. In most interviews, you’ll be asked about why you left your previous job, or what issues you ran into at a previous position. Applicants make mistakes when they’re tempted to say it was because of being fired, hating their boss, or bad leadership.

While you shouldn’t lie in response to these questions, finding a positive spin to show off your skills and experiences is a safe way to answer. Saying anything negative can cause the interviewer to think you might speak negatively of your new employer in the future.

Perhaps there wasn’t a chance to advance into higher positions (this shows your zest for success), or you realized you wanted to use your skills and experience in a whole new way. And if you can’t come up with anything positive? Just say that there was a culture mismatch.

Do: Stop Stressing

The interview process is stressful. You need a job now to pay your bills. But you’ve done everything you can. You’ve made a list and checked it twice, conducted your research, and really gotten to know who you are as an employee. All that’s left now is to ace the interview. So, breathe. Take a few minutes to meditate, let out a primal scream, or do whatever it is you need to do to settle your nerves. Go in there, be yourself, and dazzle them with your experience.